Your jawbone is connected to your skull by the temporomandibular joint which acts as a sliding hinge to permit the connection. One joint exists on either side of your jaw. TMJ disorders can cause pain in the jaw joint and the muscles controlling jaw movement.
The precise reasons affecting a person with a TMJ disorder can be difficult to determine. He or she may be suffering pain from a combination of factors like genetics, jaw injury, or arthritis. Some people experiencing pain in the jaw may also be clenching and grinding their teeth (bruxism) but it has also been noted that many people with bruxism do not develop TMJ disorders.
The pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders are temporary and can be relieved with self-care or nonsurgical TMJ treatments. Surgery is often the last resort after any or all conservative methods to provide relief have failed. However, surgical treatments may provide relief to some people with TMJ disorders.
The Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
TMJ disorders have many symptoms and some of them are mentioned below:
- Pain in one or both the temporomandibular joints.
- Tenderness or pain in the jaw.
- Difficulties chewing or pain when chewing.
- Pain which aches around the ear.
- Locking of the joint causing difficulties in opening and closing the mouth.
- Facial pain that aches.
A clicking sound or a grating sensation when opening the mouth to chew can also be caused by this condition. However, if you do not have any pain or experience restrictions when moving your jaw you do not need treatment for this condition.
What Causes TMJ Disorders?
The temporomandibular joint is a combination of a hinge action that has sliding motions. Parts of the bones interacting in the joint are covered with cartilage and are separated by a tiny shock-absorbing disk that ensures the movement remains smooth.
Painful TMJ disorders occur when:
- The disk moves of its proper alignment or erodes.
- Arthritis damages the cartilage of the joint.
- Damages they joint are caused by an impact or a blow.
The causes of TMJ disorders are not clear in many cases.
When to Seek Advice from a Doctor?
You should be seeking medical attention if there is tenderness in your jaw or persistent pain and if you are having difficulties opening or closing your jaw completely. Your doctor, dentist, or TMJ specialist can discuss the possible causes of your condition and offer treatments for the problem.
How Are TMJ Disorders Diagnosed?
The doctor or dentist you contact will examine your jaw and discuss your symptoms before conducting a physical examination. The professional will probably:
- Feel your jaw and listen to it when you open and close your mouth.
- Notice the range of motion in your jaw.
- Press on locations around the area to identify sites of jaw pain or discomfort.
If a problem is suspected the professional will recommend dental x-rays to examine your teeth and jaw, CT scans that can provide comprehensive images of the bones involved in the joint, and MRI to discover problems with the surrounding soft tissue or the disk of the joint.
Is It Possible to Cure TMJ Disorders Permanently?
TMJ disorders may disappear by themselves without treatment in some cases. Medical professionals will recommend a variety of treatment options if your symptoms persist and may combine more than one treatment at any given time.
Medications That Can Help with TMJ Treatment
The following medications may help to relieve the pain associated with TMJ disorders.
- The medical professional may prescribe stronger pain relievers for a limited time if over-the-counter pain medications are not providing relief expected.
- Tricyclic antidepressants may also be used for pain relief from this problem.
- Muscle relaxants may sometimes be prescribed for a few days or weeks to determine if muscle spasms are causing TMJ disorder.
TMJ disorders can also be treated with nondrug therapies like oral splints, mouth guards, counseling, and physical therapy along with exercises to stretch and strengthen the jaw muscles.
Alternative Treatment for TMJ Disorders
Alternative techniques of medicine may help to manage the chronic pain associated with TMJ disorders and some examples of alternative treatments include acupuncture, relaxation techniques, and biofeedback.
Lifestyle changes and home remedies can also help with TMJ treatment. Becoming aware of anxiety-related habits like grinding your teeth, clenching your jaw, and chewing pencils can help you to reduce their frequency. You can consider the following tips to help with reducing the symptoms of TMJ disorders.
- Avoid overusing your jaw muscles by having soft foods and staying clear of sticky and chewy food.
- Stretching and massages can also help you strengthen your jaw muscles and your dentist or physical therapist can teach you how to perform these exercises.
- Heat or cold compresses applied on the side of your face can also help to alleviate the pain.